Getting your own sneaker collaboration is great, until you have to release it. The co-owner of Berlin sneaker boutique Overkill, Marc Leuschner, found out the hard way when he got to design his dream sneaker, the Adidas ZX 8500, a first for his store and the brand.
Leuschner is regarded as a sneaker retail king in Germany, not just because he runs one of the most well-known boutiques in Europe, but also because he’s been a longtime collector of Adidas and is regarded for his knowledge on the brand’s EQT and ZX lines.
He’s worked with the brand in the past. Most notable was his store’s project on the ZX 10.000 sneaker in 2019 that saw each box come with three individual shoes to mismatch. Last year Adidas dedicated its attention to the ZX line and released the A-ZX program, a bevy of collaborations and inline shoes that finds its inspiration in a similar program the brand did in 2008. It was a no-brainer that Overkill would be involved in the project, and Leuschner used the opportunity to create the ZX sneaker of his dreams.
“Our first idea was to create the Super ZX, and then we thought to mix up some of the favorite silhouettes from the ZX series to create a new shoe,” says Leuschner. “The ZX 8000 is the most popular, which is also my favorite, and I also really like the ZX 9000. We came to the idea to combine both sneakers and come up with the idea of the ZX 8500, which was an iconic moment for me because in 20 years, it will be viewed as the OG model.”
The sneaker itself takes inspiration from the graffiti scene in Berlin. Overkill has a floor of its shop dedicated to graffiti supplies. The shoe’s upper is made up of bright colors that represent the color chart for Montana Gold, a manufacturer of spray paint. The ZX 8500 also comes with an overshoe to protect would-be vandals from staining their sneakers with aerosol paint droplets.
Leuschner reveals that there’s a friends-and-family version of the sneaker on the way, too, that’s limited to 60 pairs. The sneaker comes in all-white, so the wearer can paint it to their liking.
Although the ZX line does not have as much appeal in the US, it’s a big deal in Germany. Football supporters from East Berlin, where Leuschner grew up, wore the sneaker in the late ‘80s, as its high price tag and performance elements made it a status symbol for hooligans who wanted to impress rival clubs with their gear and fists. Since then, the sneakers have had a cult status amongst German collectors, much in the same way Adidas’ City Series resonates in the UK or Air Force 1s do in New York City.
This meant that the Overkill x Adidas ZX 8500 release was going to be big for the shop; not only in demand, but because Leuschner wanted to get the sneaker into the hands of collectors who wanted the shoes to own and wear—people like himself.
The sneakers were scheduled to release on April 9 at midnight on the shop’s website. In a leadup to the release, Leuschner went on Instagram Live with Adidas’ director of energy, Till Jagla, to talk about the release and let people know what to expect when the sneakers hit the website. And then all hell broke loose.
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Leuschner says it was the biggest Overkill release they’ve had on their site to date. “Our web shop now is really old. This is why we started with a pre-release only at Overkill, we know that all the bot hackers will go onto our shop,” he says. “And this is why we told the people, ‘Hey guys, we are going online at midnight. But attention: We know that we are attacked by many bots. We are online at midnight, we’ll check our system, we’ll fight against the bots. We’ll do everything that we can from our side.’”
He told customers that Overkill was only going to let people with accounts buy the sneakers, as most bots try to purchase as guests. Leuschner also announced that they were going to delete the bot orders.
The bots ended up being worse than Leuschner expected. “The first three hours of the release, the shop wasn’t available because we got so many bot attacks. I was really frustrated, because we also had a big stock,” he says. “Then the shop started to work around 3 a.m. And we sold out really, really fast. We let the people know that we have many bot orders in our system and we will cancel them. And then we begin the process with our customer service to cancel more than 1,000 bots.”
The work had only just started for Leuschner and his team. He told people that if they couldn’t get through to the website, to email the store directly, and the team would make sure they got their sneakers. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but he admits that it led to a lot of work.
“We have the horrors now that we have many thousand messages at our customer service account, but I only have two team members who are handling the emails,” he says. “We started to cancel the bots and start to send out manual orders to all the people who send us the email.”
Six hours after the release, Leuschner says he had many frustrated customers, but in the following days they started to send out emails to the people who missed out, saying, “Hey, your pair is available.”
“We work on a high level to do everything for every loyal customer,” he says. “And in the end, so many people get their shoe and their hands on the product.”
Leuschner says that he went four or five days without really sleeping, due to all the work that came with getting the sneakers to customers.
He does admit that he cared more about this release than the typical hype sneaker drop that happens every weekend. “It was a big workaround for us because normally we, as a shop, can say, ‘OK, I don’t give a fuck about the bots. If anybody buys 50 shoes, we can send it out and take the money,’” Leuschner says. “But for our shoe, we had the feeling we had to get them to the loyal customers.”